Guest Blog: Bahia, a terra eu amo! (Bahia, land I love !)

M. Petersen-Coleman, Travelling Womanist

Marissa Petersen-Coleman is our guest blogger for this week.  We are excited to have connected with this DePaul alum to hear about her travels as a research assistant studying trauma and survival in brazil.  Marissa is currently studying to be a psychologist in Chicago and is one of two sisters that has a wonderful jewelery line, Abrazo Jewelry.  Please enjoy her words and pictures that explore her experience in Salvador de Bahia.  Enjoy!!! ReFlectionary!!!

Having caught the ‘travel bug” early in life, I’ve made it a priority to explore the world by any means necessary.  Typically that has translated into sleeping on many cold floors, going without water (and showers!) and growing a mutual respect for exotic bugs.  In fact, after experiencing resort life and the glory of all-inclusive piña coladas, I’ve realized that I prefer the type of travel that forces me to step outside of my comfort zone.

For my dissertation I was given the unique opportunity to examine the intimate dynamic between spirituality and psychological healing.  In June 2009, I packed my bags and traveled as a research assistant to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.  Our small research team set out to examine the healing effects of Candomblé, a West African derived religion, for Afro-Brazilian trauma survivors.  We were specifically interested in how Afro-Brazilians who practice Candomblé construct meaning of their traumatic experiences and overall healing practice.  As a child of a Jamaican immigrant, the expression of non-Western healing experiences was quite familiar to me.

Upon arrival, I immediately felt that this international excursion would be drastically different than my previous adventures.  Immediately, I fell into the rhythm of my beautiful surroundings.  The constant drumming and celebratory spirit was contagious and I could not help but cling to it.  I embraced the unknowns and all along, the process of therapy mirrored my journey: Observe, initiate new behaviors, link the unknown to the familiar and attend to intuition.

Spiritual Celebrations

One particular moment that resonated deeply within me was during one of my qualitative interviews.  When I arrived at a popular Candomblé terriero in Bahia, I immediately felt that this house was different than the other houses we visited.  Previously, I was able to maintain a distance from myself and the subject matter.  Throughout this interview I became increasingly aware of my internal reaction while listening to the Mão de Santo openly share about her faith in a tangible manner.  Although my personal belief system is not Candomblé, I was captivated by her conviction as she elaborated on the healing effects of her faith.

It occurred to me that, for many, there is a fine line that separates psychological and spiritual healing.  In Bahia these two healing constructs are viewed as one in the same.  In fact, the majority of my clients in America conceptualize healing as a balance between mind, body and spirit.  Therefore, my awareness of diverse healing belief systems not only assisted me during my time in Brazil but it continues to inform my clinical practice.  I went to Bahia to discover the strength of spirituality, and found within myself the ability to connect with the human psyche.

My time in Salvador taught me that I am not simply an observer of clinical change but I am a participator, as well.  I was invited into a cultural and spiritual belief system that has a reality all of its own.  A reality that differs from my own but, nonetheless, I learned about the common human thread that binds us all together—spirit.  Not only did my spirit feel alive in that place but I also felt my perspectives of reality exposed, stretched and examined.  A type of psychology that is able to challenge the status quo that we unconsciously yield to and create a transformation within me from the inside out is what continues to drive my work in the international psychology field.

Window to Our World


~ by travelling womanists on March 30, 2011.

4 Responses to “Guest Blog: Bahia, a terra eu amo! (Bahia, land I love !)”

  1. Thanks for having me guest blog! The “Window to our World” comment is perfect for that picture. That was the view from my living room apartment and that bay is Todos Los Santos…which is the exact place where the largest number of African slaves were brought than anywhere else in the “New World.” Talk about ReFlectionary…

  2. Thanx Marissa Petersen-Coleman for the story which I found insightful. As an English speaker how did you overcome the language barrier. I am also planning a trip to Bahia for spiritual and cultural awakening purposes. Any particular Candomblé terriero you would like to recommend?

    • Hello Ben. Here is the response from Marissa. You will also find a special list in your inbox very soon.
      I did not visit all of them and I will need to ask my mentor which ones she’d recommend. She stayed longer and had a reading done at one terriero, in particular. I will follow-up about this…

      As for the language barrier, I speak fluent Spanish so that enabled us to navigate the community pretty well. Portuguese and Spanish are so similar that I was able to understand the gist of what was being said. For research purposes we hired a cultural and language interpreter. She was someone who grew up in the largest favela in Bahia and helped us schedule interviews.

      if you have any further questions or would like to read more about marissas experience please contact us and we will make sure to send you articles from her research

  3. […] If you are interested in the article you can check it out here! […]

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